NCAA Basketball Pick: USC Trojans -2½ over Long Beach State

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, December 19, 2013 5:00 AM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 5:00 AM UTC

USC is off to a promising 7-3 start in its first year under former Florida Gulf Coast Coach Andy Enfield, and the Trojans should prevail at Long Beach State Thursday.

A major Pac-12 program is on the verge of returning to prominence under a new head coach and it looks to continue its fine start on the road Thursday night when those USC Trojans (7-3, 0-1 away) pay a visit to the Long Beach State 49ers (1-9, 1-2 home) at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, CA at 10:30 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has USC as a road favorite for this contest with the current line at -2½ with odds of -106.

When we last saw Coach Andy Enfield, his Florida Gulf Coast Eagles were busy making a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament in March beating Georgetown and San Diego State before finally losing by 12 points to the Florida Gators. Well, Enfield parlayed that success into a more lucrative position, replacing Kevin O'Neill as coach of the Trojans after they posted a 14-18 record last season, although USC did go a respectable 9-9 inside the Pac-12.

Well, so far so good as USC is off to a 7-3 start under its young coach, and now the Trojans look to see if they can take that success on the road where they are only 0-1, losing their lone road affair at Utah State way back on opening night. Meanwhile Long Beach State is 1-9 and has lost nine straight, but do not read too much into that as the 49ers have faced a schedule ranked second in the country in SOS.

The Trojans may not have faced as formidable a schedule so far with an SOS ranked 168th according to the Pomeroy Ratings, but at least the three losses all came vs. good competition as besides the loss to the Aggies in Logan, USC lost to Villanova and Wake Forest. More importantly, the Trojans already have two quality wins vs. Xavier on a neutral floor and Boston College at home, which is more good wins than Long Beach has total wins so far.

Neither of these teams shoots three-pointers well but the key to this contest is that USC should be able to do whatever it wants on the interior. Thanks to a great start by 6-foot-10 freshman Nikola Jovanovic to his college career, the Trojans are hitting on 51.5 percent of their two-point shots and the 49ers do not seem equipped to do anything to stop them.

Now we totally get that Long Beach State has faced a killer schedule that has included the likes of Michigan, Arizona, Creighton, VCU and Kansas State, but remember that the efficiency ratings at Pomeroy are adjusted for schedule and the 49ers are ranked just 234th in offensive efficiency and 185th in defensive efficiency.

The 49ers have not shot well while ranking 309th with an effective field goal percentage of 44.8 percent, but there is some hope there with former UCLA starter Tyler Lamb expected to make his Long Beach State debut tonight, which should help the offense. Unfortunately, Lamb will not do much to help an interior defense that should get shredded by the USC frontcourt.

Long Beach State applies no pressure defensively ranking 208th in defensive turnover percentage and, because of a lack of size, the 49ers are ranked 310th in two-point defense while allowing opponents to shoot a generous 54.0 percent from inside the arc.

Therein lays the key to this contest and the key to a USC road win on Thursday.


NCAA Basketball Pick: USC -2½ (-106)

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